Toddlers are born boundary-pushers, not that this is a bad thing! It is a part of their natural development and the way they learn. Although this is true, they LOVE structure and routine. They love being able to predict what comes next and to take part in decision making. When their routine shifts or isn’t in place at all, they can easily become uncomfortable in the situation and challenge you more consistently. We want to give you a glimpse of what is going on developmentally and tips on how to survive this exciting age!
Toddlers love to make decisions, so allow them to! This allows them to hold onto some power in their lives. Keep your routines the same but offer a few choices during the routine. Pyjamas, pick between two pairs, offer two types of toothpaste or pick 2 books out of 4 for them to read with you all while keeping in mind that we don’t want to overwhelm them with too many choices.
Create a schedule that works for you and your family. Whether your toddler is on a one nap schedule or has dropped naps altogether, hold that schedule sacred. Try to have nap and bedtime at the same time each day. Why is important at this age? Toddlers like to be able to predict what comes next. Having a consistent schedule helps your child to be able to do just that!
Choose an early bedtime. Toddlers do not know how to regulate their emotions to begin with, if you factor in an OVERTIRED toddler then you are increasing your chances of experiencing meltdowns, tantrums and tears. Instead of having your 2–3-year-old stay up until 8-8:30 PM, try a 7:00 PM bedtime. You might see them fall asleep quicker, stay in bed throughout the night and avoid those 5:30 AM wake-ups. You may experience fewer nightmares or night terrors as well. If your toddler is having a hard time settling down at an earlier bedtime it may be time to cap or drop that nap and have quiet time instead.
What does quiet time look like? Toddlers can become easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation. It is important to have a set time for our children to just chill. Reset by reading a few books in bed, singing to themselves, play with their favourite stuffy or even colour (IF you trust them alone in their room with marker or crayons). During quiet time it is important that it is just that and nothing too stimulating like tv, tablets or gaming on some sort of device.
Why do we want to schedule specific times for screen time? The light from the screen can alter our body's natural biological clock. If our body is absorbing blue/white light too close to bedtime our natural melatonin production will be suppressed, causing difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and oftentimes, night terrors. We all turn to these devices for help throughout the day. To get in that morning coffee, send that last email or get supper in the oven. I GET IT, BELIEVE ME. What we need to do is just be aware of the amount of screen time and when it occurs. End screen time 40 minutes-1 hr before sleep. Have these devices on a timer and giving your toddler a warning that time is getting close to prevent meltdowns.
Developmentally, your toddler is far more advanced than they were even 6 months ago! When they are pushing our buttons, it is because they are curious and learning. Toddlers are experiencing cause and effect and it is developmentally appropriate for them to try to bend the rules. Having consistent nap and nighttime routines will help your child feel secure and safe. Honouring nap and bedtime, while allowing them to take part in decision making will lead to more compliance and less boundary-pushing during toddlerhood. Good luck!
Natalie Moran + Amber Monette
Your Certified WeeSleep Sleep Consultants